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Business Casual Superstar: Inspired by 18th Century England, and Susan and Frederica Vernon (“Lady Susan,” Jane Austen)

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Today, for the first time, I’m putting together an outfit inspired by characters from a book. I also put together a really quick fanmix, even though I probably shouldn’t have since I’m so busy with all of these 8 million legal articles I have to write about ritual slaughter and the conflict between federal labor protections and the establishment/exercise clauses and something about sex crimes. Not all in the same paper. I promise.

Anyway, Lady Susan is a short novel by Jane Austen, and it’s just a bunch of letters between a bunch of different people, who are only introduced to the reader through the letters. There’s absolutely no exposition of any sort, and it’s a really fascinating read. If you feel so inclined, you can read my full review of it on GoodReads.

But let’s get on with it, shall we? Here’s the fanmix, which I’ll also explain a bit like I do every time I post one of these things. I call this the “In Between Boyfriends” mix, because Lady Susan is a whore. Basically. A high-society, manipulative whore.

In Between Boyfriends: A Lady Susan FanMix

1. Forks (Anne Dudley)

{instrumental}

[I can’t find it on YT, which sucks, but it’s a lovely, deep, somber but still achingly beautiful instrumental piece.]

2. So You Did It Again (Ane Brun)

I guess you’ve been here before
A little kissin´and a lovin
And your best judgement
Just lying on the floor

[Because seducing several men at a time, married, unmarried, whatever, is old hat to Lady Susan. She’s turned it into an art form, and the boys always fall for it.]

3. Liar, Liar (A Fine Frenzy)

Liar, liar, you?re such a great big liar
With the tallest tales that I have ever heard
Fire, fire, you set my soul on fire
Laughing in the corner as it burns
Right between the ribs, it?s sinking in
Oh, oh, the sirens sang so sweet
And watched the sailors going down
Oh, oh, you talked to me in siren song
Yeah, anyone would drown
Anyone would drown

[Because it’s agonizing how adept a liar she is. It’s painful. No disagreement or even condemnation is too much for her to quickly turn around and soothe over for her purposes, and it’s actually physically painful to read about such a skillfully manipulative woman.]

4. Kiss With A Fist (Florence + The Machine)

broke your jaw once before
spilt your blood upon the floor
you broke my leg in return
sit back and watch the bed burn
well love sticks sweat drips
break the lock if it don’t fit
a kick in the teeth is good for some
a kiss with a fist is better than none

[Because Lady Susan views these love matches of hers as a fight to get on top, a fight to stay in control and endlessly manipulate the other person. It’s combative, it’s aggressive, it’s exhausting.]

5. Whisper (A Fine Frenzy)

I’m down to a whisper
In a daydream on a hill
Shut down to a whisper
Can you hear me still
Eager to please,
Trying to be what they need
But I’m so very tired
I’ve stopped trying to find
Any peace in my mind
Because it tangles the wires

[Because her poor daughter Frederica is reduced to having no voice in the book. Almost. Of all the 41 letters in the book, she is only the author of one of them. Her mother keeps her firmly in hand and even forbids her to talk to her aunt and uncle, who only want to help her, and the poor girl obeys. She’s horribly (mentally/psychologically) abused by her mother throughout the short novel, and it’s horrible.)

6. Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered (Doris Day)

Couldn’t sleep and wouldn’t sleep
When love came and told me, I shouldn’t sleep
Bewitched, bothered and bewildered – am I
Lost my heart, but what of it
He is cold I agree
He can laugh, but I love it
Although the laugh’s on me

[Because Frederica falls in love with Reginald de Courcy, the brother of her aunt (who is the wife of Frederica’s late father’s younger brother). Reginald is also deeply, madly, unreasonably in love with Frederica’s mother, Lady Susan, who has manipulated him to feel this way because seh thinks that having a relationship with him – and perhaps even marrying him, although the reader gets the sense she never SERIOUSLY wants to marry him – will be quite advantageous to her financially,a nd will really stick it to her sister-in-law, Reginald’s sister, whom she despises.]

7. The Dumbing Down of Love (Frou Frou)

Well painted passion
You rightly expect
Impersonation
The dumbing down of love
Jaded in anger
Love underwhelms you
No box of chocolates
Whichever way you fall
And if i tell you
Lover alone without love
What will happen
Lover alone without love
Will you listen?
[Because this book caused love, which has never held a position of high regard in my mind, to sink even lower.]
There! What a delightful little mix. And now, let’s move on to the fashion. The book was written in the late 18th century but published in the mid or late 19th century, so I opted to stick with the 18th century.
In 18th century England, just before Regency times, there were several styles slipping in and out of fashion. The one that I went with involved petticoats, naturally, and a full skirt, usually patterened, worn with a tight jacket over the fitted bodice. The jacket usually had 3/4 length fitted sleeves and stayed close to the upper body. It was a little more casual than wearing just a dress with full petticoats underneath. Ladies commonly wore slippers – not like our bedroom slippers today, obviously, but closer to what we’d call ballet flats, I guess. Eh.
So that’s what I channeled when putting together this outfit.
And as a little aside, I tossed in a petticoat to give the skirt extra fullness. Click to purchase (even though it’s shorter than the skirt…whatever.)
Scandalous.
Anyway, first, I found an A-line skirt, thinking I coudl stick a petticoat underneath it to give it the fullness typical of these 18th century gowns. But this skirt from Anthropologie was pretty swishy on its own, so I guess the petticoat isn’t all that necessary, but I’m tossing it in anyway.
I needed a three-quarter sleeve jacket to go with it, so I found this one after looking around EVERYWHERE for something that would work. Bodices that rose too low were worn back then with these fancy undergarments underneath, but I just went with a grey tank from Forever21.
And for the shoes, I settled on these pretty flats from Aldo with the glittery little studs and details. They’re just perfect for this skirt-and-jacket look, which is fancy enough as it is without a pair of heels thrown in.
So there we have a lovely outfit inspired by the 18th century British fashions as well as Jane Austen’s short novel, which I recommend and have given 4/5 stars on GoodReads. Plus a lovely fanmix!
You know, I spoil you guys.
:)